Auchinleck Talbot manager Tommy Sloan is today facing up to a horrendous injury blow after it was revealed his inspirational skipper Mark Campbell may require cruciate ligament surgery that would rule him out for the rest of this season.

Sparky suffered the injury to his left knee in the 25th minute of Saturday’s thrilling 4-3 Super Premier Division victory over rivals Hurlford United following a robust challenge from Ford midfielder Ross Chisholm.

He was stretchered off in obvious distress and decided to accept a lift to Crosshouse Hospital rather than wait the estimated 90 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, however initial tests proved anything but conclusive.

The 37-year-old stopper admitted: "I had gone to play a ball at the edge of our penalty box and the Hurlford player has slid in and smashed into my planted left leg.

It has to go down as the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my football career and no amount of icing at the park could prevent the joint from swelling up.

“Attending the A & E was a futile exercise in many respects as an examination and subsequent X-Ray revealed nothing I didn’t know already and I must now await the swelling going down before undergoing a scan to determine the extent of the damage.

“However, I’m long enough in the tooth to know I’ve picked up a serious one and will not be playing football for a long time.”

Celebrated ex-Senior defender Campbell, best remembered for stoic five-year stints with Ayr United and Raith Rovers, visited one of his many physiotherapist acquaintances yesterday and had his worst fears all but confirmed .

He said: "If truth be told, the swelling prevented too much flexing of my knee but the medial ligament appears intact which leaves me facing up to the prospect of cruciate or cartilage damage .

“So I’m now left facing the prospect of up to eight weeks or a year plus out of the game and speaking as someone who has underwent cruciate surgery to his right knee, I’m fearing the worst.”

The worst might see the curtain coming down on Sparky’s playing days because there is no getting away from the realisation that he will find it difficult to recover from such a serious injury coming in the twilight of his illustrious career.

Changing the subject to his reflections on the manner of reigning Super Premier Division kingpins Talbot’s superb comeback win over title challengers Hurlford had the Bot skipper confidently predicting his team-mates have it in them to last the distance and retain their champions mantle.

He added: " Some early-season falters have seen teams queuing up and thinking they can knock us off our perch.

"But we haven’t done all that badly considering we haven’t exactly been firing on all cylinders up to now.

“This latest Hurlford result, though, will act to give a shot in the arm to all the guys and I see no reason why they cannot keep up similar performance levels from here on.

“The necessary quality and ambition is there and you can bet on us working hard and staying focused until the end.”

Campbell was not the only serious casualty in the weekend locking of horns because Hurlford United’s own commanding centre-back Chris Robertson is looking at a four to six-week spell on the sidelines after tearing ankle ligaments.

Meanwhile, another seasoned campaigner hoping to get back into playing action is former Pollok, Rob Roy and Junior Scotland frontman Ian Diack whose loan spell with Irvine Meadow was terminated by mutual consent at the weekend.

Diars, 34, is still under contract with East Region outfit Sauchie Juniors, reputedly looking for nothing more than a nominal sum to facilitate a permanent transfer deal.

The hitman said: "There are no problems with my fitness thanks in no small way to my local club Cumbernauld United granting me training facilities .

“Sharpness will come from playing regularly and I just hope a Super Premier or Super First club will give me a chance to prove there’s goals in me.”